It appears every team in the National League West looks to offer free-agent Madison Bumgarner, except the Colorado Rockies.
The Manny Machado signing in San Diego seems to have hurried a ‘win now’ approach for the Padres, making them optimistic to land Bumgarner amidst a new manager, uniforms, and panic to do something immediately. Arizona has reportedly also made an offer, but the Diamondbacks may not have offered enough. The Dodgers didn’t acquire Gerrit Cole, which now reasons they may cross the Dodgers-Giants rivalry boundary to bring Bumgarner to Los Angeles. Clayton Kershaw said playing with him “would be great.” San Francisco would undoubtedly like him back.
It’s essentially all the same for Rockies fans—it’s simply down to the hat Bumgarner may wear, and whether Cody Bellinger is the one giving him run support. Money spent on a Colorado bullpen overhaul, Nolan Arenado extension and a dismal 2019 likely rules the Rockies out of the aforementioned list.
35 of Bumgarner’s 286 regular season starts have been against the Rockies, equating to an average of three or four starts per season over his career. That equates to about 12 to 16 starts per year against NL West teams, reasoning him a sizable factor in the divisional standings.
Bumgarner has held the Rockies to a career .255/.310/.399 slash—all three figures are the highest of NL West oppositions. He’s allowed a 3.27 career ERA to the Rockies in over 200 innings, just below the Padres for the highest NL West figure. When he’s been on the mound in Denver, his ERA has risen to a 4.56.
Bumgarner primarily throws four-seam fastballs and ‘sliders’, and his strikeouts per nine innings at Coors Field is second worst out of all NL ballparks he’s pitched at. It furthers the discussion behind an optimal set of pitches in thin air to construct a team around. If we recognize Jeff Bridich has leaned toward several fastball/slider guys (i.e. Oberg, Estevez, and Diaz), the insights on Bumgarner’s mix would provide fascinating details to the equation. Every pitcher would be different, understandably, but some general guidelines are interesting to reason with.
It’s also worth noting we don’t really know if what Bumgarner throws actually is a slider. It’s reminiscent of a cutter or a slider, but isn’t either, according to the 2014 Royals. FanGraphs calls it both a cutter and a slider depending on the splits. With it being thrown out of his deceptive three-quarter slot, it may as well just be called the Bumgarner and exempted from definition.
One thing is highly deserving of note here: we’re talking about an extremely limited sample size for Bumgarner at Coors Field in the grand scheme of things. He may face the Rockies three or four times or so per year, but that can mean once or twice in Colorado. He doesn’t have the luxury of knowing how altitude changes things quite like Rockies arms that are accustomed to the adjustment. Chase Field Bumgarner has posted a 3.13 ERA, identical with his career average—a minor altitude shift in Phoenix seems to be of little issue there.
Bumgarner at altitude seems to be the Rockies own, specific discussion. The rest of the baseball world has taken to a discussion a little more hostile: whether or not it’s acceptable for a San Francisco icon to suit up in Dodger blue.
Tim Lincecum had the opportunity to sign with the Dodgers after his time in San Francisco—he picked the Texas Rangers instead, because going to Los Angeles would have been “betraying [his] heart.” Bumgarner has a similar opportunity in Los Angeles, assuming a Dodgers offer holds true, but on a grander, more lucrative scale than Lincecum. After three World Series championships and a 2014 World Series MVP (received from arguably one of the greatest pitching performances of the 21st century), Bumgarner has been a San Francisco Giant in every sense of the term.
Relievers Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo were cemented Giants, too. Wilson threw the last pitch of the 2010 World Series. Romo did it in 2012. Bumgarner did it in 2014. If Bumgarner is indeed headed to Los Angeles, all three would end up pitching for the Dodgers after capping off a Giants championship.
The news for Rockies fans may not be the uniform Bumgarner wears, but instead the simple fact that, from the looks of things, the Rockies would face him with the same frequency as always. He may easily remain on the list of elite divisional starters the Rockies face about three times a year, along with Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler. Fortunately for Rockies faithful, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg weren't added to the list.
There still remains something enticing about showing up to the ballpark with a marquee starter on the mound, however—Bumgarner has fit that mold for a decade.
The Rockies ‘passed’ on their first round pick in the Rule 5 Draft; it’s not as drastic as it sounds, as two thirds of the teams passed in round one, too. The pass by the Rockies was listed due to a full 40-man roster. Right-handed pitcher Brandon Bailey from Colorado’s Broomfield High School was taken second in the draft to Baltimore.
Apparently the Rockies management core at the Winter Meetings had about $1,000 in snacks inside their hotel room in San Diego. The business side of the event is laden with sleepless nights and apparently enough snacks for a whole elementary school to go on a survival adventure. There may be no bigger irony in assessing world-class physicality than having a Doritos bag in hand while doing it.